Love. Revere. Discover. Connect.

February 8, 2009: “Reflection: All You Need IS love, Valentines Sunday”

Ah, love. Love and marriage, you know the drill, though why does it often seem like love and marriage, no matter what the genders, so seldom seem to act very loving. Like this story about STRANGERS ON A TRAIN:

A man and a woman who have never met before find themselves in the same sleeping carriage of a train. After the initial embarrassment, they both manage to get to sleep; the woman on the top bunk, the man on the lower.

In the middle of the night the woman leans over and says, "I'm sorry to bother you, but I'm awfully cold and I was wondering if you could possibly pass me another blanket."

The man leans out and, with a glint in his eye, says, "I've got a better idea ... let's pretend we're married."

"Why not," giggles the woman.

"Good," he replies. "Get your own blanket."

More children’s wisdom

You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming. — Alan, age 10

No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with. — Kirsten, age 10

Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough. — Lynnette, age 8

On the first date, they just tell each other lies, and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date. — Martin, age 10

This day should properly be called Lupercalia, and mid-February fell later in the year due to different calendars, so that this was a spring festival, what is now known as Spring Break! And it was really a fertility festival, that is a time when certain things were done because people believe that helped to have babies, helped the crops grow and helped animals to have their babies. . Sorry. Not much about love, but a lot about mating. The festival of Lupercalia honored Pan, the god of shepherds and country people, as well as Juno, the goddess of marriage and the guardian of women. Here's how Betsy Williams, Religious Education Director for the Church of the Larger Fellowship, our Church by mail for those too far from a UU church:

"On the eve of Lupercalia (Feb. 14) young Roman boys would draw the names of girls to be their partners during the festival. The next day two boys of noble birth would be anointed with the blood of goats sacrificed at the cave of Lupercal, named for the legendary mother wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome. (Lupus means wolf in Latin.) The boys would then run laughing though the streets of Rome, chasing young women with strips of the goats' skin. A lash of the sacred skins (called februa, origin of the word February) was believed to make a young girl better able to bear children." So much for love. Yet, how to propagate the species is a biological task which must be successful if the human race is to endure. And what, as Tina Turner would ask, does love has to do with it?

When Christianity became the official state religion of the Roman Empire on the 4th century CE (Common Era), the pre-Christian celebrations were now considered pagan (which simply means from the country) and attempts by the church authorities to try to stamp them out failed, so new festivals were invented with Christian themes to be held at the same time. In 496, Pope Gelasius set Feb. 14 as the date which to honor St. Valentine who became the patron saint of love and lovers. It is not clear, however, who the real Valentine was, for there were conflicting stories which dated back to the third century CE.  What is clear, however, is that this day became associated with love and hearts and flowers and chocolate candy. Next year, maybe we'll investigate the origin of chocolate! Some years ago, interestingly enough, the Catholic church also declared some of the old saints to be fictional and declared that they were no longer real saints, like St. Christopher, ( of the dashboard for travelers,) St. Nicholas, (supposedly where Santa Claus originated,) and St. Valentines! Oh well.

Today we hope that love is the important for marriage, and having children is an option, not a requirement; indeed many of us believe that it is not two different genders that make up a marriage but that two people who love each other and wish to make a lifetime commitment should be able to do so, even if they are of the same gender. Indeed, many of us believe that there are many different ways to express the idea of gender than just 2-boy or girl. But that Love is the determining factor.

When I perform marriages or sacred unions, I always use this passage which I wrote some years ago as the introduction to the service:

Two people meet, and something special happens, something unexplainable, something mysterious. For some unknown reason, a relationship develops. Call it love; call it God; call it chemical reaction; call it the reason for living.

It really doesn't matter what name we assign, when two individuals melt into a new being called a couple, who, if they are willing to work incredibly hard  on making their relationship  blossom, will enjoy the fruits together for a long, long, time.    -AGS

    In an article on Spiritual Healing, titled A Tour of Your Sacred Heart: (Once you access the power of love, your life will change in a heartbeat,)  Diane Goldner author of How People Heal: Exploring the Scientific Basis of Subtle Energy in Healing, writes :

It's no wonder that we celebrate the power of the heart on Valentine's Day. The heart is truly a mystical gateway, the seat of the soul.... On Valentine's Day we revel in the beauty of romantic love.... Yet mystics and saints tell us that this love is just a taste of the divine love that we can find in our own hearts. A Hindu saint once summed it up: The heart is the hub of all sacred places, he commanded. Go there and roam.

She talks about how the heart is celebrated as precious and magical, a place of harmony, compassion, love, and healing. I remember growing up in New Hampshire, and the French Catholic church was just called Sacred Heart and was pictured as the heart in flames within the picture of Jesus. In Sanskrit writings, the blazing light of the heart is said to be so great it can burn away all impurities. In the Kabbalah, the mystical branch of Judaism, the light associated with the heart, tiferet, is at the very center of the tree of life. It is where everything comes into perfect balance.  In the East the heart is considered to be the seat of consciousness. ...The Tibetan mantra om mani padme hum means, in translation, The jewel of consciousness is in the hearts lotus. And the Chinese word for heart, xin, means both heart and mind. In acupuncture, the heart is viewed as the seat of the spirit.

So I do believe that, like the Beatles say, all we need is love, but that love is part of a religious life of relationship though it doesn't matter how old you are. It matters how you behave! To truly behave with love is what we need to be about, how to treat one another and the world with love.  How to love ourselves, as well.

Listen to the early words of Universalist George de Benneville from the 1740s promoting social justice: The spirit of love will be intensified to Godly proportions when reciprocal love exists between the entire human race and each of its individual members. That love must be based upon mutual respect for the differences in color, language, and worship, even as we appreciate and accept with gratitude the differences that tend to unite the male and female of all species. We do not find those differences obstacles to love. 

I translate the word God as love, the spirit of love, the power of  love, not a being but the reason for being, part mystery, part feeling, perhaps even part instinct, maybe we are hard-wired , created for love and connection one to another and religion is one way the universe has of teaching us that in its many various forms. So let us not be led in to the temptation of the idolatry of dogmatism, but let the spirit of love lead us into the valley of strength, joy, and beloved community. Let love lead us toward social justice in the world. All we need is love.

Amen, Shalom, (Peace in Hebrew), Assalaamu Alaikum(may Peace be upon you in Arabic), Abrazos a todos (Hugs all around) Namaste, (A Hindu greeting the divinity within you) Blessed Be, and let me add one more blessing that I adapted from the Spanish long before I went in to ministry. Vaya con Dios is Spanish for Good-bye, but literally is Go with God, SO I adapted it to say Vaya Con Su Dios, Go with your idea or interpretation of God. con amor with love….

Opening Words

This is our Sunday celebrations of Valentines dedicated to love since I will be away next Sunday- this thought is humorously conveyed in a cartoon signed Barb/Billy which shows two ultra-hip looking women where the first says:

"I wish I knew how to attain Nirvana- the highest state of consciousness where the body is stripped from the shackles of earthly pleasures, individuality, and desire." The second woman responds: "Why don't you just get married?"

Attending a wedding for the first time, a little girl whispered to her mother, "Why is the bride dressed in white?"

"Because white is the color of happiness and today is the happiest day of her life," her mother tried to explain, keeping it simple.

The child thought about this for a moment, then said, "So, why's the groom wearing black?"

Yes, love is a laughing matter as well as a crying matter, but it is also a joyous and yes a religious matter, for at the heart, get it, the heart of my belief is love is the most important part of religion. For me, it is the central teaching of Jesus in Christianity as well as God in Judaism; indeed, I believe that the essence of love of life, of humanity, of one's self, of one's enemy, of all living things is a universal truth in all religions, but that what we most practically need is the love of community, a beloved community and a relationship of family. So we shall explore love today during this intergenerational time for all ages. I share this wisdom from children-

Wendy, age 8: concerning how people in love behave: "When a person gets kissed for the first time, they fall down and don't get up for at least an hour.

Andrew, Age 6, concerning why love happens between two particular people: "One of the people has freckles and so he finds somebody else with freckles."

On what falling in love is like: Brian age 7: "It isn't always just how you look. Look at me. I'm handsome like anything and I haven't got anybody to marry me yet.

Christine age 9: Beauty is skin deep. But how rich you are can last a long time."

We must always remember that children reflect on what they learn, which is very scary indeed. SO many relationships, it seems reflect something different from the love we wish to teach our children is possible in relationships. Yet love among us is what keeps us going and gives us the strength to weather the storms that life batters us with.

The love of life itself, of a passion for living, a compassion for others to be in relationship with, that's what love can be, to know that we are interdependent. The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and writer, Thich Nhat Hanh, writes:  We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separateness.

February is also Black History Month and I think especially of the teachings of Martin Luther King, because they so embodied love. Did you know that he considered joining UUism in the 1960s? He decided against it because he felt there weren't enough possibilities for change for Blacks in this denomination and that he would have more impact for change in the Baptist denomination.  He spoke at our General Assembly in The    Ware Lecture, delivered every year, brings people of all kinds who are trying to make a difference in the world in 1966:

...Another thing about this philosophy which is often misunderstood and that it says that at its best the love ethic can be a reality in a social revolution. Most revolutions in the past have been based on hope and hate, with the rising expectations of the revolutionaries implemented by hate for the perpetrators of the unjust system in the old order. I think the different thing about the revolution that has taken place in our country is that it has maintained the hope element and at the same time it has added the dimension of love. Many people would disagree with me and say that love hasn't been there. I think we have to stop and talk about what we mean in this context because I would be the first to say that it is nonsense to urge oppressed people to love their violent oppressors in an affectionate sense. And I'm certainly not talking about that when I talk above love standing at the center of our struggle. I think it is necessary to see the meaning of love in higher terms. The Greek language has three words for love one is the eros, another is the word filio, and another is the word agape. Im thinking not of eros, or of friendship as expressed in filio, but of agape, which is understanding, creative, redemptive good will for all men, an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. When one rises to love on this level, he(one) loves a person who does the evil deed while hating the deed....

We use that term, Love, so loosely that it could become meaningless, but let us hold it up today as a religious word, but also one that is  universal and unifying. Let love unite us, inspire us. Lift us up.